1st Battalion The Royal Welsh took over the lead role for the NATO enhanced Forward Presence in Estonia, and has already shown the UK’s enduring commitment to NATO with a battlegroup integration exercise.
The British Army's 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh took over the lead role for the NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) in Estonia on the 18th March 2022, and has already shown UK’s enduring commitment to NATO with a Battlegroup integration exercise.
Exercise Bold Dragon was the first combined training opportunity with the full Battlegroup capability consisting of main battle tanks, armoured fighting vehicles, armoured personnel carriers, mounted and dismounted infantry, a sniper section, artillery firepower and attack helicopters.
It demonstrated the ability to operate and fight together as one Battlegroup and maintain the operational condition of the soldiers.
The multinational Battlegroup provides me with a quite heavy force to conduct clearly the counter attacks and some additional offensive activity." Colonel Andreus Merilo, Commander 1st Division, Estonian 1st Infantry Brigade
Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Streatfeild, Commanding Officer of the eFP Battlegroup Estonia, said:
“Bold Dragon is designed to give us an opportunity to shake out in new territory, in terrain we are not used too, and to give us the opportunity for each of the elements of the Battlegroup to work together.
“It is a big Battlegroup, we are over 1400 strong so there are lot of working parts but there are very well designed training lanes for the sub-units to go through to get used to working with each other.
“We’ve settled in really well, we are pretty confident with our surroundings and getting into our training now, so it is going well at this stage.”
The UK-led armoured infantry Battlegroup deployed to the Baltic State a month ago and Exercise Bold Dragon will see them officially integrated as part of the 1st Estonian Infantry Brigade. Despite having deployed in 2017, The Royal Welsh are now working even more closely with the Estonian Defence Force.
Colonel Andrus Merilo, Commander Estonian 1st Infantry Brigade, said:
“Since the last deployment here many things have changed, most importantly the security environment is completely different today. The Russian continuation of incursion against Ukraine in February, is clear evidence the situation has changed.
“A lot our processes are the same, how we operate is still the same, but we have learned and gained lot of experience, and the integration exercise is the result of that learning and experience. Now we build up a clearly targeted way to achieve the integration of the eFP Battlegroup in the most effective and fastest way possible.”
Normally based in Tidworth, Wiltshire, the Welsh Warriors were reinforced by additional French and Danish forces, the larger than previously seen multinational Battlegroup will be part of the increased readiness and commitment in Eastern Europe.
The routine and pre-planned tactical training took place in the harsh conditions of the Tapa Central Training Area - the deep snow, frozen marsh and enclosed woodland making it extremely challenging but greatly improving the ability to work alongside other nations.
The NATO alliance continue to provide the deterrence in the region, following the creation of enhanced Forward Prescence almost five years ago. Their collaboration with partners is to protect the eastern border and support regional stability and security.
Colonel Andrus Merilo, said:
“The eFP Battlegroup in their 5 years outstanding service in Estonia have contributed clearly to the deterrence effect and we may also argue that the deterrence has been affective in the Baltic Sea region.
"That is the clear evidence that the Russians have not contacted any offensive activities against the Baltic States but selected to attack non-NATO member Ukraine."
On the mood following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Lieutenant Colonel Streatfeild said:
“I’d say that there’s been a renewed focus, it’s given everyone a sense of purpose and focus on the threat and importance of the role we are doing out here.”
Following the integration exercise, the next full Brigade exercise is Hedgehog in May which will be at a different location and a much bigger format than Exercise Bold Dragon.